Oh, Danny Boy…

Oh, Danny Boy!

Whenever we move from one year to another there are lists all over media…Top Stories, Funniest Moments, Most Influential People, etc. etc. you’ve seen them. I don’t mind confessing that I like lists; not only do I like these re-cap lists but I like the ones that tell you 10 Ways to Organize Your Closet, 6 Foods to Eat Now and I also like making lists. I make grocery lists, vacation lists, I have lists of restaurants I want to visit, books I have read, books I want to read – yep, I’m one of those!

Lists help me stay organized and focused, help me set personal goals, let me find things easily and, most important, remember stuff.   A well-written list is clear, exact, and brief. When life is very busy and chaotic, a list helps me feel like I have been productive as I cross off the “dones”.

Perhaps my little OLM (Obsessive List Making) may seem weird to you but it works for me and I think God must like lists too because His Word is full of them.  The Ten Commandments comes to mind as one of God’s most well known lists but recently I found an amazing list in the Book of Daniel.

As a young Israelite man, Daniel was taken to the land of Babylon to serve in the household of the king. He served for about 70 years and, in the Book of Daniel, he describes his experiences.

In Chapter 10, Daniel had been mourning, fasting and praying for 3 weeks.   He sees a vision of an amazing man dressed in linen with a face like lightening. The man speaks to him, calling him a man of high esteem (v11)…How did Daniel become “a man of high esteem”?!

Ready? Here’s the list, Daniel was:

DETERMINED – Daniel “made up his mind that he would not defile himself” – Daniel was a man of firm resolve, strong in mind, determined.

 OBEDIENT – He seeks permission from the commander to not defile himself – he obeyed earthly authority! He was bold, not afraid to speak to the authority over him when he knew he answered to God.

WISE – When the commander said he was afraid of his leaders, Daniel had a wise solution, “lets do a test!”

DEPENDED ON GOD – Daniel is asked to interpret the Kings dreams. By asking for time to consider the dream – he demonstrates wisdom. He consults his friends, he knows he needs support, together they ask God, he depends completely on God to supply. Chapter 2 has a wonderful prayer of praise to God, he was a man who knew the source of wisdom and blessing, he was humble.

GOOD INFLUENCE – Daniel’s three friends face a horrible test when they are ordered to worship a statue. Daniel’s example of strength much have been a good influence.  Shadrach, Meshach and Abnego refuse to worship the statue and are thrown into a raging inferno, they trust God to deliver them.

COMPASSIONATE – The king has a dream and God gives Daniel the interpretation. Daniel is appalled by the meaning of this dream and wishes, for Nebuchadnezzer’s sake, that the dream did not apply to him, a man of caring and compassion!

HONORABLE AND HARD WORKING – There’s a new king on the throne.   It was common for a new ruler to kill any servants that might possibly be loyal to the old king. Not only did Daniel serve well, he distinguished himself. Daniel was accomplished, and worked hard with excellence.

PRAYERFUL – When the order is given to pray to the King, Daniel is found making his usual petitions and supplication to the Lord. Daniel was a man of consistent and disciplined prayer.

GUARDED HIS TONGUE – Daniel never speaks against those who plotted against him; he was a man of honor. He does not cry out or plead for mercy when put into the lion’s den, he trusted his God. When the pit is opened, he still honors the king who put him in there and gives glory to God. Daniels example caused this pagan king to praise the one true God and give the order that all should honor God.

KNEW THE WORD – Daniel read the Word (Chapter 9 – he reads the words of Jeremiah). He was a man of prayer and fasting. He was a man of confession who humbled himself before God and confessed the sins of the people. He was deeply grieved over sin. He knows God has allowed these difficult days and knows that God has the power to because of His great compassion.

Daniel, the man of high esteem, is given a wonderful promise. The angelic being tells him to “go your way to the end, then you will enter into rest and rise again for your allotted portion at the end of the age.” Daniel 12:13

Daniel obeyed and honored God all his life. There is no record of his ever asking for anything for himself yet God gifted him with great wisdom, gave him favor with 3 different rulers/kings and preserved his life. Over and over Daniel consistently demonstrates wisdom, integrity, humility, obedience and devotion to God.

Want to be a person of High Esteem? Be a Daniel!

 

When Your World Quakes…

Before…

Routine keeps me on time, on task, nothing forgotten.  Mental to-do list of who, what, where, when and how.  Small warning signs of trouble may be ignored but this time, God was speaking, preparing for the test and trial.  I knew something was coming, I did not know what.  Easy to praise the Lord when life is going according to my plan but much too easy to coast and think, “I got this…”

During…

The major interruption.  The unexpected, unplanned, unanticipated event; not on my schedule.  All routine out the window, calendar useless, reminders, lists, obligations, email alerts all ignored.

The cords of death encompassed me, and the torrents of ungodliness terrified me. The cords of Sheol surrounded me; the snares of death confronted me. Psalm 18:4, 5

Trying to breathe, to remain calm, to put two coherent thoughts together.  Who to call/text?  There is one, the One who is above all others.  In these moments, I can only fall at His feet.  Heart pounding, I open His Word…

“I love You, O Lord, my strength.” The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. … In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried to my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple,
and my cry for help before Him came into His ears.Psalm 18:1 – 3, 6

This enemy is bigger than any ever imagined and foundations are cracking, rendered powerless, without knowledge, adrift without a schedule or plan to follow.  Refusing to dwell on what might happen, what could happen, what is the worst that could happen; choosing to focus on the One Who gave His permission for this trial, this test.

Then the earth shook and quaked; and the foundations of the mountains were trembling and were shaken, … He bowed the heavens also, and came down with thick darkness under His feet. He rode upon a cherub and flew; and He sped upon the wings of the wind. Psalm 18:7, 9 – 10

God rushes in, He allows every earthquake to accomplish His purposes and He stands at the epicenter with His arms wide.  He gives strength to bear my burden, He sends Aarons and Hurs to keep my arms strong and heart lifted to Him.

He sent from on high, He took me; He drew me out of many waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my stay. He brought me forth also into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me. Psalm 18:16 – 19

The quake was strong, intense and thankfully short.  There were aftershocks that occurred without warning; they were accompanied by shortness of breath, sleeplessness, loss of appetite and ability to focus, a constant sense of anxiety.  God, His character, His Word, His Truth needed to be repeated, often, and deeply planted to recognize and reject the lies, to slow the breathing, to quiet the mind.

As for God, His way is blameless; the word of the Lord is tried; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him. For who is God, but the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God, the God who girds me with strength and makes my way blameless? He makes my feet like hinds’ feet, and sets me upon my high places. He trains my hands for battle, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have also given me the shield of Your salvation, and Your right hand upholds me; and Your gentleness makes me great. You enlarge my steps under me, and my feet have not slipped. Psalm 18:30 – 36

After…

Back on schedule with minor, manageable, interruptions; they are welcome after all the rocking and rolling.  God chose to deliver and give what was requested, He was gracious and merciful to me.  Ultimately He gave the one thing He always and consistently gives, His gave according to His will and purpose.  Would I be praising the Lord as much if my request did not agree with His will?  Difficult to say, I like to think I would and I know I would trust Him to lead me through whatever He allows and I know there will always be another quake. Lord, help me continue to sing…

The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock; and exalted be the God of my salvation, … He delivers me from my enemies; surely You lift me above those who rise up against me..Therefore I will give thanks to You among the nations, O Lord, and I will sing praises to Your name. Psalm 46 – 49

What’s That Smell?

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?  For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God. 2 Corinthians 2:14 – 17

Sometimes when I am reading I wonder why the author wrote what he/she wrote?  I just wish I could ask the author to clarify what I am reading so I can understand it better; to explain to me what the words on the page mean and what difference they should make in my life.   God, who inspired men to write the Bible has given that gift to His children.  As I read The Word I can have an immediate, on-going dialogue with the author, God, as I reading – no other book, no other author can do that, no other book or author even invites that ceaseless conversation.

So, when given the assignment to read and pray through the verses above from 2 Corinthians, I knew I had some questions that I needed God to answer:

  • How do I “manifest the sweet aroma of Him in every place”?
  • How do I become “the fragrance of Christ”?
  • Or in simpler terms – How can I smell like Jesus to everyone, everywhere, all the time?

Aromatherapy is not a new thing but for some reason using essential oils for theraputic purposes seems to be enjoying renewed popularity among many women I know so I started to think about how these oils are made.  Most of them are made by pressing or crushing organic materials to extract the fragrant oil they contain; sometimes heat is applied to release the fragrance; the resulting essential oil has a powerful and pervasive smell.  The oil is not released on it’s own; the perfumer applies the pressure and must know when and how to apply the correct pressure. God was showing me that crushing is required and the original material will be destoyed but the result is a sweet aroma.

God kept answering my questions by reminding me that pleasant fragrances are attractive, they make me want more, they can be comforting and soothing. Fragrance has the power to bring back memories and the sense of smell is more effective than any other senses in bringing back past experiences.  An aroma is invisible, like a breeze it moves through unseen but if not refreshed somehow it can become stale or lose strength.

Then God said, “Turn here…”

Therefore, thus says the Lord,
“If you return, then I will restore you—
Before Me you will stand;
And if you extract the precious from the worthless,
You will become My spokesman. Jeremiah 15:19

Here was another part of my answer.  I need to allow God to transform me into a new person by changing the way I think (Romans 12:2). God will separate the precious from the worthless as I am “crushed”, purified and refined.  My part is to return to Him, read His Word, talk to Him about His Word and ask Him to seal His Word in my mind and heart.  God is the master perfumer, as He is applying pressure, the fragrance of Christ will be released and I will be able to “manifest the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Christ” as Jesus flows through me and I speak and act like Him, becoming His spokeswoman.

Those who catch a whiff of my “Jesus fragrance” will have one of two responses; they will be offended because it smells like death and judgment to them or they will be delighted because they recognize the smell of life.  But the way my fragrance is perceived by others is not up to me because it is not me pouring it out but Jesus!  I am completely free to stand and allow my sweet aroma to flow everywhere I go and to breathe it back in again.  Any time my scent weakens He will restore it to full strength!

God gives me a choice, will I turn to Him and trust Him to extract the sweet aroma of Christ His way or will I continue to go my own, unscented or worse, malodorous, way.

Or in simpler terms – my fragrance can either be sweet and proclaim Christ or it can stink things up!

What’s that smell?  JESUS!  Yeah – ain’t it sweet!

Small but Powerful

Down here is sunny Florida we have bugs galore, big bugs, small bugs, bugs that fly, crawl, infest and terrify.  I know bugs have a purpose and I don’t mind them as long as they stay on their side of the wall – the outside!  Not too long ago I opened a drawer and spotted a cockroach.  I was helping a customer at the time and I was pretty proud of myself that I kept my cool, closed the drawer and moved further down the counter!  But no way was I going to open that drawer again so I nabbed the first male co-worker available and he tossed that monster outside and stomped him good – go team!!!

Ezra is one of the lesser known men of the Bible.  In the Old Testament, the Book of Ezra is between 2 Chronicles and Nehemiah.  The Book of Ezra is fairly short and easy to skip and Ezra is not even mentioned until chapter 7.

Know Who You Are

Ezra is a Levite, a direct descendant of Aaron, a scribe who was skilled in the Law of Moses.  Ezra knew WHO he was and WHOSE he was.  The King gave Ezra all he requested because the hand of the Lord HIS God was upon him (Ezra 7:6).  Ezra travels to Jerusalem because the good hand of the Lord HIS God was upon him (Ezra 7:9)

Set Your Goal

Why was Ezra for blessed?  Verse 10, Ezra had SET HIS HEART to Study, Practice and Teach the Law of the Lord – Ezra loved the Word of God and he had made up his mind to read, study, live and teach the Word.  Ezra knew the importance of knowing God through His Word.

Lead by Example

Ezra knows God is giving him the strength he will need to make this 5 month journey to Jerusalem along with the priests, men, women, children, goods and supplies he is bringing to Jerusalem.  He stops near a river where he gathers ALL THE PEOPLE to humble themselves before God, fast and pray, seeking God and His protection.

Lead Humbly

Upon arrival in Jerusalem, Ezra is informed that  the priests and Levites in Jerusalem had intermarried with the women who “lived in the land”.  God had instructed the people of Israel not to do this; they were only to marry other Israelites, they were to keep themselves separate from the people who were native in that land.  Ezra is devastated to hear this news and some of the people who had traveled with him “trembled at the words of the God of Israel” (Ezra 9:4).  Ezra’s prayer in Chapter 9 shows Ezra’s love and devotion to HIS God, he:

  • Admits and confesses his shame and the sin and guilt of the people
  • Praises God’s grace in leaving a faithful remnant
  • Thanks God for revival and His lovingkindness
  • Recognizes God’s righteousness and right to judge the people’s sin.

I love Ezra’s honesty in this prayer.  He pours it all out to God, he holds nothing back. He completely trusts God to do what is just and right and relies on God’s goodness and mercy.  The sin of the people broke his heart and it should break ours too. Ezra talks it all out with God BEFORE he talks to the leaders and the people.  This is great reminder to me to talk to God first about everything and listen to what God says before I seek wisdom from any other source!

Make the Tough Call

One of the priests comes to Ezra and says, “Arise! For this matter is your responsibility, but we will be with you; be courageous and act.” (Ezra 10:4)  Ezra knows what he must do.  He makes a proclamation and the people agree  to put away (divorce) their foreign wives.  He selects leaders to investigate and make a list of those who had committed this transgression.  Ezra makes the tough call to follow God and not what is easy, comfortable or socially acceptable.

Peer pressure is a powerful force and it is easier to follow the crowd.  God wanted the people of Israel to be set apart to holiness; God’s standards do not change, His people today are to be set apart to holiness.  I need to stand apart from the world, to live in the world but not be of the world.  Ezra takes decisive and difficult action to remove the sin; he does not hesitate.  His action seems harsh and it is but when God says, “Stop” there cannot be compromise or partial obedience; it must be all or nothing!  That cockroach was in the wrong place at the wrong time and he was messing with the wrong people.  He looked big in the drawer but pretty small squashed on the sidewalk!

Like most men of his time, Ezra was probably small in stature.  In addition to Chapters 7 – 10 of the Book of Ezra, he is mentioned several times in the Book of Nehemiah and then disappears from the Bible.  He helped rebuild the temple of Jerusalem and may have worked on the wall alongside Nehemiah.  Compared to many other men and women in God’s Word, his accomplishments were not so big.  Ezra did not seek to be in a position of leadership and responsibility, he knew God had placed him there and he knew God would lead him step by step and this made him a powerful and influential leader.  All of us are leading in some fashion and like Ezra, it is a lot easier to lead when you know who you are following.  So stay outside you cockroaches – I’m wearing boots to work from now on!

Pardon the Interruption – Luke 8

When my kids were young I had two wishes, 1. to finish a cup of coffee while it was still hot and, 2. to take an uninterrupted shower.  Two simple wishes that I think every parent or caregiver of young kids understands.  Is it a law that my phone will only ring when I it is on the other side of the room and I am sitting in my favorite comfy chair AND it is just a  phone solicitation?  Is there a bulletin that goes out saying, “She’s reading, start your conversation now!”  Why are these little interruptions so darn interrupting?

After being asked to leave the swine herders, Jesus gets a warm welcome at his next stop, (Luke 8:40) where He is met by a man named Jairus,  Unlike the Gerasene demoniac, Jairus was an important and highly respected man.  He is also a desperate man, a loving father whose daughter is dying.  He falls at Jesus feet, pleading for Jesus to come and heal his daughter.  I understand Jairus desperation; God taught me how to pray as I prayed for my children, when they were sick, when they were struggling, when they rebelled.  In those times, I prayed fervently and without ceasing, often without words but with groans and tears.  Desperation will drive you to your knees at the feet of Jesus and there is no better place to be!  Jairus came humbly but also confidently; he expected Jesus to answer, he expected Jesus to act.  When we lay it all down before Jesus we can have that same confidence; that if what we ask is in His will, He will hear and answer, how glorious!

BUT…

…an interruption…

A woman pushes and shoves her way through the crush of people and touches the fringe of Jesus’ cloak.  The briefest touch by a single finger and a quick withdrawal but Jesus notices – He always notices.  I love that about Jesus!  I am very goal oriented, I can be so focused on my agenda, my “to-do” list, that I miss the people around me, I miss an opportunity to give a kind or encouraging word.  If I am not listening to God’s voice, I can see interruptions as annoyances and not as divine appointments.

Jesus not only notices her, He draws attention to her and she is forced to proclaim her shame.  The hemorrhage would have made her “unclean” and unable to worship in the temple.  During her 12 years of suffering, she endured much at the hands of physicians and spent all she had seeking a cure.  And she shares the news of the immediate, miraculous healing she just experienced to the crowd – she must have been smiling as she told this good news.

In the meantime, Jairus is waiting.  Jairus knows every second counts, his daughter, his only daughter, is dying – why is Jesus taking so long?  So, another…

…interruption…

News comes, the worst news, Jairus’ daughter has died.  “Don’t trouble the teacher”,  (Luke 8:49) in other words, don’t bother Jesus, we don’t need Him any more.  Jesus always knows what is best and His timing is perfect; He knows what we think, He knows how we feel so He tells Jairus not to be afraid, He will make his daughter well.  Jesus goes to Jairus’ house.  The mourners laugh; it can be easier to laugh than to accept Jesus words as true and I wonder how foolish they felt when Jairus’ daughter got up!

Jesus orders that someone get her something to eat.  Jesus is both miraculous and practical.  This reminds me that after an amazing encounter with Jesus, I need to get back to the everyday business of living life, a changed life, a new life, an ordinary, interrupted life made extraordinary by Jesus!

Never Less Alone

When day came, Jesus left and went to a secluded place; and the crowds were searching for Him, and came to Him and tried to keep Him from going away from them. Luke 4:42

When day came – Sunrise, the morning after a busy day, Jesus had healed and freed many for hours, into the night. His body aching, His heart weary, He rises and begins another day. Each day, He calls me to rise before the sunrise, I love sleeping and don’t like waking up early, I am a night owl – God knows this and made me this way. Jesus understands me, He helps me wake up.

Jesus – the centerpiece, the cornerstone, the Bright Morning Star. He is the one who leads. He is the only one to follow.

went – hearing His father, He follows in obedience, in submission, under authority, always with clear purpose, He moves. He does not rush or dawdle. He simply goes. God sees me rushing, feeling pressured, that is not his voice. He does not want me to run ahead of Him or walk behind Him. He wants me at His side. He shows me how and when to move. He is my friend.

to a secluded place – alone, quiet, private. A haven of rest where even the smallest sound and every tiny voice can be heard in His heart. Where is my haven of rest found? I must be intentional about getting to that place, it will not come to me. Jesus went there, I need to get myself there. I need to stay at His side, that is the haven of secure and quiet rest.

From Matthew Henry’s Commentary: He retired for a while into a place of solitude. It was but a little while that he allowed himself for sleep. When it was day he went to a solitary place to be sometimes alone with God as even those should be and plan to be who are most engaged in public work. They will find themselves never less alone than when thus alone.

and the crowds were searching for Him – all always seek Him. Even those who do not know what they really want seek Him. What is their motive? Who are these crowds? They are sinners, beggars, healthy and well, wealthy and wise, fools and fakes, users, abusers, easily amused, some have an agenda, some love HIm, some are greedy, some are empty, all are desperate, lost, and lonely.  Which one am I, are you?  Which one do I want to be?

and came to Him – to all who seek, He will be found! They did whatever they had to do to get to Him but He was never hidden.  Some will not like what they find, some will take what He has to give, stay a while and then turn away, others will fall in love with Him and follow Him always. I came, I saw, I stayed.

From Matthew Henry’s Commentary:  Though a solitary place may be a convenient retreat, yet it is not a convenient residence because we were not sent into this world to live to ourselves.

and tried to keep Him – He cannot and will not be kept in a box made by human hands. He cannot be kept by strength, He is kept by faith, He is kept by His own love for me; the love that kept Him on the cross until death. He is Messiah, the Son of God.

From Matthew Henry’s Commentary: The people sought him and though it was in a solitary place, they came to him. A desert is not desert if we be with Christ there.

 from going away from them. – He will never leave nor forsake the heart that is truly His but to the heart of pride, of self, of lies He never really came…

Let Me Use Your Words

My eyes open and I know something is very wrong. I am gripped with anxiety. I had a restless night, had trouble falling asleep, tried the couch for a while, drifted off, awoke, went back to bed, fell asleep again and woke at the first glimmer of daylight.

Tired and anxious with a “low-grade” headache, and an unsettled stomach, I took several deep breaths trying calm down.

Walking is a stress reliever for me so I go out and walk. That remedy, usually a sure thing, fails me. My husband asks me what’s wrong but that adds to my distress since the only answer I have sounds lame and whiny, “I don’t know!”

I have been learning the importance of regularly pouring my heart out to God; pouring it all out, the good the bad and the ugly. I take my laptop and start writing, a total free-write. I just type out everything that’s swirling around in my anxiety-ridden brain. I close my eyes some of the time and cry a lot of that time. I talk aloud as I type. I know I have to continue until I feel peace. I run out of words but my mind is still racing. Now what?

I pick up my Bible and turn to Psalm 142. I begin to type the psalm, saying the words aloud as I type. Time passes; I pray and type the psalm at least 3 times before I feel the burden lift.

Is this some kind of magical charm or guaranteed prayer formula – ABSOLUTELY NOT!!   I was not just “saying words”, I was saying God’s Word; this was a deeply personal and prayerful conversation between God and I.  Just as David was pleading for God to hear him, to help him, to release him, I was pleading with God to hear me, for peace, for calm, for deliverance.   I had run out of my own words so I used David’s.

I don’t know how long I sat there with my laptop but I sat there long enough, I prayed long enough, I talked with God long enough that the peace I had sought now replaced the anxiety that had me crippled and powerless. I deleted the conversation, it is private, between me and My King and now, it is settled.

Some hours later I realized why I was so anxious and I was able to deal with the very small issue that had paralyzed me. I believe God wanted me to see how gloriously dependent on Him I am and how His Word is the answer; He was testing me to see if I was going to put into practice what He had been teaching me. I passed the test.

Next time you find yourself anxious or struggling with a problem or person I encourage you to pour out your heart to God and open your Bible. The Psalms in particular are a treasure trove expressing every human emotion. Read a psalm, using the author’s words to talk to God. Write the psalm, take your time and think about the words, tell God how you feel. He is waiting to hear from you, to bring you peace.

I cry aloud with my voice to the Lord; I make supplication with my voice to the Lord. I pour out my complaint before Him; I declare my trouble before Him. Psalm 142:1,2

Atomic Reactions – John 12

PIZZA! Bet you had some reaction to that word!   Maybe you are a pizza maniac (Yes!) – as soon as you saw ‘pizza’ you started to think about getting a slice. Maybe you don’t like pizza (excuse me but that is a literal impossibility!!), so when you saw pizza your reaction was, “YUK”. (Again, literal impossibility.)   No matter what opinion you have about pizza, the word itself causes a thought, an emotion and/or a salivary gland response!

JESUS. What reaction do you have to this word, this name? For thirty-three short years, Jesus lived on the earth. During the last three of those years He went where His Father told Him to go, said what His Father told Him to say and healed those His Father told Him to heal. Every place and person who met him and many who only heard about Him had a reaction to Him.

  • Lazarus (v1) – heard of him, Jesus had raised him from the dead in John, Chapter 11. We find him in Chapter 12 reclining with Jesus at dinner; at peace, comfortable with Jesus.
  • Martha (v2) – she witnessed the resurrection of her brother, Lazarus. In Chapter 12, she is simply being herself, relaxed, serving dinner to Jesus.
  • Mary (v3) – Martha’s sister and a witness to her brother’s resurrection. Now, she is covering Jesus’s feet with perfume, wiping it with her hair; demonstrating her lavish devotion to Jesus.
  • Judas (v4) – his criticism of Mary’s actions, his false concern over money, was his attempt to hide his real agenda, to betray Jesus in just a few more days.
  • The large crowd (v9) – curiosity seekers, heard that Jesus was there but really wanting to see the dead man walking, Lazarus – the paparazzi of their day!
  • The large crowd (v12) – they were looking for a King; thinking Jesus would bring an earthly kingdom and free them from Roman rule.
  • People who witnessed (v17) – like CNN, on the scene with their report; they were more interested in reporting a miracle, not the Miracle-worker! Perhaps there were some who truly testified about Jesus.
  • People who heard (v18) – self-seekers, heard the news and wondered if there was something in it for them, seeking miracles, perhaps some were sincere seekers of Jesus!
  • Pharisees (v19) – full of jealousy, fearful of losing their positions of power and the respect of the people.
  • Greeks (v20) – they came for the feast and decided to seek Jesus; some for Jesus sake, others for curiosity.
  • Philip and Andrew (v22) – uncertain, they decide to just go directly to Jesus.
  • Crowd of listeners (v29 & 37) – some heard thunder, others angels, some saw many signs, “yet they were not believing in Him.”
  • Many rulers (v42, 43) – believed in Jesus but were not confessing Him because of their fear and “they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.”

Each one of these people described in John 12 had a reaction to Jesus and His words. People today continue to react to Jesus. What is your reaction to Him?  Are you simply curious like some in the crowd? Are you angry like the Pharisees? Do you hide your reaction, fearing what others might think if they knew you were interested in Jesus? Do you reject Him, like Judas?  Can you rest beside Him like Lazarus? Serve in quiet obedience like Martha? Do you run to Him with all your questions like Andrew and Philip? Do you weep at His feet like Mary? Whatever your reaction, talk to Him. Ask Him for understanding, that is all prayer is; a conversation with God. Don’t say you don’t have a reaction; even indifference is a reaction! Jesus never told anyone what to think; He simply spoke the truth. Your reaction, your response to Jesus is up to you. What reaction will you choose?

So Jesus said to them, “For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.” John 12:35,36

Writing 101 – Storm Clouds

Todays’ challenge: Write a post inspired by a real conversation. The Twist: Include foreshadowing.

“Good Morning, Garden Gifts, how can we help you today? Oh, hello Lainie, how are you? What? You’re at the hospital? What was it this time? Don’t tell me, let me guess, he took his bike down that trail again!” said Meg.  Meg was in her usual spot on a Monday morning. Meg’s tiny, cluttered office was her home away from home. Post-It notes were everywhere, lots of photos, a calendar covered with more notes and a several “to-do” lists covered every inch of one wall. Meg tried to come in early on Monday’s hoping to take advantage of the solitude before her shop opened and the “real” workday began. Her Monday goal was to get ahead on things but she was happy if she could just catch up a little; running your own business was more than a full time job. And now, this phone call…

“Huh? Say that again, I am really having a hard time hearing you. You must be in a bad spot, the reception is terrible, all static-y. I’ll wait till you get to a better spot.“ She started to dig through a pile of folders, the perpetual Leaning Tower of Paper on the corner of her desk. “He did what?” With an abrupt motion, she stood, gripping the phone.   “I thought he was finished with all that! Well, what does the doctor say? Ok, ok, calm down, I can barely understand you. You’re right it IS serious. Yes I know you are upset, I’m upset too. It must have been terrifying.”

Meg began to pace back and forth, head down, receiver pressed to her ear. She nodded occasionally, even though she was all alone and no one could see her. At intervals, she would interject a short, “H-m-m” into the soliloquy pouring from the phone.

“Look, you have to try to calm yourself. Breathe slowly. Count with me. Breathe in one, two, three four, five, now hold it, hold it. Now let it out, real slow…one, two, three, four, five. Ok, again.” Meg was also breathing, inhaling and exhaling, the same slow deep breaths to calm herself.

“That’s better now. I know you are upset but try not to worry. We’ll get through this. He’s exactly where he needs to be right now.  You know God’s got this right?” Meg plunked down in her chair again and began searching her desk. Finally, her hand grasped a worn, leather-clad volume. She began flipping its pages. Like her wall, there were Post-It notes stuck to some pages, handwriting filled the margins on others, a few small sheets of notepaper fluttered onto the floor as she went back and forth, searching for the page she needed.

“Remember that verse, Lamentations 3:37, ‘Can anything happen without the Lord’s permission?’ Yes, I know this is difficult to hear right now, Lainie, but God is allowing this to happen. He has a purpose in all things!” Meg’s head was bent over her worn Bible, concentrating; at the same time, her lips were moving in silent prayer.

“You’re right, yes, God forgives our sins, ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, He will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’   But sometimes sin has consequences and those consequences can be painful. God’s not taking revenge on you or him. I know you don’t want to go through this again, none of us do, including him. Oh, ok, I can hold on, you go ahead.” Meg held the phone away from her ear and waited, covering her eyes with her hand. She could hear the faint sound of a conversation through the phone.

“Oh, sure I understand. Let me share just one more verse with you, this has been my favorite for years, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.’ Notice how it does not say the path will be level or easy, just straight! It means He will show you the way if you just trust Him. That’s Proverbs 3:5, 6 by the way,” Meg paused, listening.

“Ok, I have to get going too. I am going to pray right now. Maybe this will be the last time he has to go to rehab. Some people have to go through the program a few times before it sticks with them and they quit for good. My brother has always been pretty hard-headed, you know that better than anyone, Sis, you’ve been down this road before. Thank God he’s alive.  It sounds like you found him just in time. God has given him another chance; our job is to pray he takes it!  Call me if anything changes and I will call you tomorrow. You take care of yourself, I’ll be praying for both of you!”

Only the Sick Need Apply – Mark 2:14 – 17

As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax booth, and He *said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him. (Mark 2:14)

Jesus, passing by sees Levi in his tax booth. The more I learn about Jesus the more I realize that Jesus did not just “see” people, He SAW people. Jesus really looked at them and acknowledged them, He often stopped and spoke to them. How many people do I pass in a day and literally just pass them? Do I take even a moment to SEE them as individuals? As people having goals, ambitions, possibly carrying heavy burdens of physical pain, grief, worry?

“I pray I would take time to give a friendly greeting, a warm smile to really look into their eyes. I ask you God to give me an opportunity to speak a word of encouragement, a word of blessing and not disgust or complaint. Oh God, I am sorry for just ignoring people, for thinking badly of them or, even worse, not thinking of them at all. Help me be more like Jesus, help me SEE a person, not an interruption or annoyance.”

And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, (Mark 2:15)

Things never just “happened” with Jesus! He was always intentional and purposeful in everything He did. His sole purpose and intention, daily was to do the will of His Father. How did He do this? There are several recorded instances where Jesus took time to be alone to pray, to speak to and seek God.

“Oh God, help me to follow Jesus example! He Himself was God yet He made time to be with you. I am an ordinary woman, if Jesus needed to pray, I need it much more!”

and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him. (Mark 2:15)

Jesus did not discriminate! Tax collectors were the outcasts of the day. No one wanted to be with them! Associating with sinners made you a sinner too. Who wants to be with the crowd that everybody else avoids? Jesus!

“Oh Lord, forgive me for looking down on people for any reason. Help me not to avoid those who are different from me. Help me not to be judgmental, especially help me not to judge anyone on their outward appearance. Help me see them as you see them.  Help me love them as you do.”

When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, “Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?” (Mark 2:16)

I find it interesting that the scribes (pious Jews who strictly followed the religious laws) did not confront Jesus directly with their “concern”; they asked His disciples. The reality was that they were not really concerned about Jesus; they were more interested in catching Him breaking their laws. They were interested in punishment, not restoration. Their behavior is a good lesson for me…

“Jesus, I am so grateful for the Bible. Grateful that I can learn who you are, who God is and who I am as I read it. Help me remember what I read and apply it to my life. I don’t want to read it just to learn facts; I want it to change me from the inside out. Help me not to be a religious phony or pretender. Jesus, help me remember to come to you with everything, every question, every worry and help me come to you first!”

And hearing this, Jesus *said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)

What a great answer! Jesus knew the real problem of the scribes; self-righteousness and pride. They believed that perfect obedience made them perfect; they saw themselves as healthy. Jesus knows we, they, are all UN-healthy; we are all sick, we are all sinners. Sadly for the scribes, they did not welcome Jesus; the tax collectors and sinners did. Jesus will only go where He is welcomed; He is a gentleman; He waits to be invited.

“Thank you, Jesus that you made me aware of my sickness. Thank you that I invited you into my heart. Help me to remember that I did invite you and asked you to be Lord of my life. Help me to truly surrender all of myself, all of my life, all of my mind to you – to hold nothing back. Thank you that I am made righteous because You made it so by paying the price for my sin. It is not about me; I could not have made this decision if you had not called me. It is always, only all about you, Jesus!”

“Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible by The Lockman Foundation.”